A greyhound trainer has been banned from racing for four months after one of her dogs ingested methamphetamine, but animal welfare advocates say the punishment doesn’t go far enough.
Angela Turnwald’s greyhound Zipping Sarah won her race at Addington in November last year. Afterwards she tested positive for meth, investigators finding she had a “particularly large” amount of the illicit drug in her system.
Turnwald’s pleaded guilty after it was found her dog had ingested meth “somehow” between the time it left its base in Foxton and when it arrived in Christchurch, transported by Turnwald’s partner.
Turnwald’s initial defence was that people who had smoked methamphetamine patted the dog after the race, but she later abandoned that defence after experts said the drug would have taken hours to work through the dog's system.
SPCA Scientific Officer Dr Alison Vaughn says she’s “shocked but not surprised” by the case.
“Everyone is aware methamphetamine is quite a dangerous drug. In the short term these can be used in a performance enhancing way, however there are very serious side effects and these can involve things like increased agitation, aggression, seizures, renal failure even death.”
Turnwald’s penalty is a $3500 fine and a four-month disqualification, but that doesn’t start for another week. Two of her dogs raced at Cambridge today.
Greyhound Protection League spokesperson Emily Robertson says the penalty isn’t harsh enough.
“Four months when you've got that many dogs in your care, it's pretty pitiful really…. it undermines the whole nature if it being a deterrent.”
1 News has approached Turnwald for comment, and visited her house today, but a trespass warning was issued.
It’s one of only a few cases of meth-doping in New Zealand. Greyhound Racing NZ wouldn't comment on the issue, but the Racing Integrity Unit says about seven per cent of dogs are drug-tested a year.
Robertson says she’s concerned about that figure.
“When you consider the number of dogs that are being raced at any given race meeting that's quite small and it’s not giving you an accurate data pool.”
A government review into the greyhound racing industry was announced last week over transparency and welfare concerns. Racing Minister Grant Robertson said MPI’s requests for reports from Greyhound Racing New Zealand hadn’t been followed up, which the organisation disputed.
He said this case is “appalling”, but rare.
“Doping and other forms of cheating are completely unacceptable. It’s not fair on the animals or on the people betting.”
“Intentional administration of a prohibited substance to a greyhound in New Zealand is very rare. However, this appalling case shows that we can’t be complacent.”
Robertson says he’s in the process of appointing a new Racing Integrity Board.
“The Board will be independent and responsible for preventing doping, race fixing and other corrupt practices that damage the industry and potentially harm the animals involved.”
However, he said he’s still not considering a greyhound racing ban for now. Greens Animal Welfare spokesperson Chlöe Swarbrick is drafting a bill to ban the sport.
“This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of practice that is occurring… that is in and of itself demonstrative of why we need this review and ultimately why the Greens are pushing for an end to greyhound racing in this country.”
The government-ordered review follows the 2017 Hansen report, which found major issues in the industry.
“I think this review is going to show us the same things we've known for a really long time which is that behaviour inside the industry isn't up to scratch, as we've seen in review after review, investigation after investigation. In order to get this change over the line to end greyhound racing once and for all we are going to need public pressure”, Swarbrick said.”
Turnwald's dogs have several more races in the next week before her disqualification begins.